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Styrofoam Bans: What You Need To Know

Posted on 2/1/2021

in Environmental News

Styrofoam Ban - Blog Post

What’s the Deal with the Styrofoam Ban?

First, let’s be clear about something: Styrofoam™ is a trademarked name brand product which is owned by Dow Chemical Company for a brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam, or XPS, commonly known as "Blue Board" that’s manufactured as foam continuous building insulation board which is used in walls, roofs, and foundations as thermal insulation and water barrier and is light blue in color.

In the United States & Canada, the colloquial use of the word “styrofoam” refers to another material that is typically white in color and made of expanded polystyrene foam or EPS, which is different from the previously mentioned extruded version. This styrofoam can be more than 95 percent air and is often used in disposable coffee cups and coolers, and as cushioning material for packaging. The trademarked term is used generically although it is a different material from the extruded polystyrene used for Styrofoam insulation.

Polystyrene is the main ingredient in styrofoam and is difficult to dispose of safely. In an effort to reduce the dangerous disposal of this product, some states and several cities have implemented a styrofoam ban policy. This policy in particular prohibits the sale of EPS. Read on to learn more about the dangers of styrofoam to the environment, why it is toxic, and why this ban should be the impetus that inspires you to make the switch and purchase environmentally friendly and convenient products. 

What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene (PS) is a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer made from styrene and is a very versatile plastic used to make a multitude of consumer products that typically comes in one of a few different forms. As a hard, solid plastic, it’s used often in products that require clarity, this includes products like food packaging and laboratory ware. When combined with various colorants, additives, or other plastics, polystyrene can be used to make appliances, electronics, automobile parts, toys, gardening pots and equipment, and more.

Why is Styrofoam Banned? 

Although EPS or Styrofoam is widely used across the country, it has become increasingly difficult to find safe ways to dispose of it. In fact, only a handful of recycling centers across the country accept it, making it a large contributor to pollution and waste. Styrofoam does not degrade and often breaks down into smaller and smaller micro-plastics which is why it’s a focus of controversy among environmentalists. It is increasingly abundant as a form of litter in the outdoor environment, particularly along shores, waterways, and also in increasing quantities in our oceans. Over several decades, the harm caused by the buildup of styrofoam and other single-use plastics in landfills and waterways has made several states and cities see the imperative in banning this product and promoting safer alternatives

Is Styrofoam Recyclable?

Yes. Products made with Polystyrene are marked with a recyclable symbol with the number “6” - though there are very few recycling centers across the country that accept styrofoam for recycling. If you do happen to be near a recycling center that accepts styrofoam, it typically needs to be cleaned, rinsed, and dried before you drop it off. This is why most of the styrofoam in the United States ends up in landfills where it never bio-degrades and instead only breaks down into smaller and smaller micro-plastics.

When New York City banned polystyrene in 2017, it cited a study from the New York City Department of Sanitation that said basically that while yes, it can technically be recycled that in reality it “cannot be recycled in a manner that is economically feasible or environmentally effective.”

Does the Styrofoam Ban Policy Affect Me? 

Maine and Maryland became the first states to have a state-wide ban on polystyrene or styrofoam food containers and New York is next in line. Currently, similar proposals are in the legislative process in states like Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and New Jersey.

The first polystyrene ban in the United States was back in 1987 in the city of Berkley, California. Today there has been legislation to ban styrofoam at the city level in many states all over the country. Check with your local government to see if your city is affected if you live in any of these states:

  • California

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Texas

  • Washington

  • Washington, D.C.

Many states are currently considering all-encompassing styrofoam ban legislation. To stay on top of this, visit our website and receive up-to-date coverage and to find out if you are affected. 

What Are the Alternatives to Styrofoam? 

If you live in an area affected by one of the styrofoam bans, don’t let it bring you down! At Green Paper Products, we pride ourselves in having provided environmentally friendly alternatives to harmful and toxic materials for over a decade so that you can stay ahead of the curve or comply with local regulations! You can find and purchase many safe alternatives right in our online store

What are some of the examples of environmentally friendly styrofoam alternatives for food packaging?

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